The Pasco City Council took a step Monday toward clearing space for a downtown Lewis Street overpass.
The council voted 6-1, with Councilman Tom Larsen opposed, to award a $445,018 contract to Ray Poland & Sons for part of the demolition of buildings to make room for the overpass.
The city is going ahead with demolition of an area between Lewis and Clark streets and Second and Tacoma avenues even though it doesn't yet have the money to build the overpass, which is expected to cost more than $30 million.
The contract with Ray Poland & Sons of Kennewick will cover removing hazardous materials like asbestos and filling in the land where buildings have been demolished.
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City Manager Gary Crutchfield said this contract will cover only the first phase of demolition. The city hopes to do more later this year or early in 2015.
"We don't have enough money to do it all at once," he said.
A representative from Groat Brothers of Woodland, which had a lower bid than Ray Poland & Sons, spoke at Monday's meeting. The city disqualified Groat's bid of $360,678 because the company prequalified only as a bidder for projects costing less than $300,000.
He also failed to file a protest within the required amount of time, explained Lee Kerr, the city's attorney.
Joseph Churchman said he was told by a city official that Groat could bid. But Crutchfield said the woman who told him that was a secretary who did not know he was qualified to bid only on projects under $300,000.
"I'd like to take the time to remind the council that my bid was over $80,000 less than Ray Poland & Sons," he said.
But not following the rules could set a bad precedent, said Mayor Matt Watkins.
"These processes are full of all sorts of specific rules," he said. "The intent is to make it a level playing field for everybody."
The city is looking to replace the underpass built in 1937 below the BNSF railroad tracks.
The city still needs the state Legislature to pass a transportation revenue package if the overpass is to get funded, Crutchfield said. The state Senate had the overpass in its proposed bill during the 2014 legislative session, but the House did not.
Even if both houses and Gov. Jay Inslee agree on a transportation package with the overpass, construction on the project could still be years in the future. But Crutchfield said getting rid of aging and abandoned buildings still provides advantages.
"Some of those older buildings become attractive for ne'er-do-wells, who, for lack of a better word, cause problems in the area," he said.
-- The council approved a final plat for the sixth phase of the First Place subdivision. The latest part of the development west of Road 44 and north of the Franklin County Irrigation District canal will have 52 lots.
-- The council appointed Gabriel Portugal, Zahra Khan and Jana Kempf to the planning commission.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom